Joy Zoodsma

Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Heather Addison

Second Advisor

Dr. Chad Edwards

Third Advisor

Dr. Leah Omilion-Hodges


Women, fitness, feminism, consumerism, body

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access


SHAPE Magazine is a women's fitness magazine that has been consistently popular since its initial publication in 1981. This study explores how the messages of health and beauty in this publication have evolved over the last three decades, especially in response to the cultural imperatives of consumerism and feminism. It critically analyzes the visual and textual messages on SHAPE Magazine covers and in letters from the editor, which offer important examples of the ways in which SHAPE attempts to “hail” readers – to draw them in, to convince them that what the magazine has to offer is relevant to their success as women.

This study builds upon previous critiques of societal expectations about female roles, especially as presented in popular culture. My examination reveals how the distinction between beauty messages and health messages has become blurred and explores the contradictory discourse presented on and in SHAPE Magazine covers and letters from the editor, highlighting the conflicting ideologies of feminism and consumerism that the magazine embraces. SHAPE encourages women to be healthy, happy, and confident while also exhorting them to pursue an impossible standard of physical fitness and attractiveness.